Students, staff rally to support awareness for breast cancer

Leah Matlin, Features Editor

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Junior Maddie Guest poses with the bracelets she created and sold in order to raise money for the Cancer Wellness Center and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Chemistry teacher Kelly Reimer said Guest is one of many students who has been supportive throughout her battle against cancer. Photo by Richard Chu

When chemistry teacher Kelly Reimer went in for her annual checkup on Feb. 20, 2017, her doctor found lumps in her breasts.

According to Reimer, even though doctors did not initially think the lumps looked cancerous, they still sent her to get an ultrasound.

“One thing that stood out from that appointment was that the radiologist just kept repeating, ‘It’s odd, it’s odd,’ two words that you don’t want to hear from a doctor about something going on with your body,” Reimer said.

She was given the option of waiting six more months to get another ultrasound, or she could see a surgeon. However, Reimer said the two words, “it’s odd”, from the appointment made her want to see a surgeon. Her surgeon didn’t believe the lumps were necessarily cancerous, but the two words from her previous appointment kept sticking out to her. Eventually she decided to get a lumpectomy, a procedure which removed the lumps from her breasts and determined if they were cancerous.

“In the back of my mind, I kind of knew,” said Reimer. “Like, my gut was telling me that something was wrong.”

On April 17, 2017, Reimer was officially diagnosed with breast cancer.

“I was diagnosed with stage one breast cancer, but I have a breast cancer gene, so I [decided] to have a double mastectomy,” said Reimer. “I [had] both of my breasts removed.”

Although she is not treating Reimer, Catherine Pesce, director of the breast surgical program at NorthShore Medical Group, said in a phone interview that cancer begins from a genetic mutation. The body’s ability to correct the mutation is what keeps cancer from happening. However, when the body does not correct the problem, cancer cells grow and replicate.

“What I talk [about] most with patients, as a surgeon, is how we want to treat [breast cancer] surgically,” said Pesce. “The way that we approach that is with either a mastectomy, which means removal of the entire breast, or you could do a lumpectomy if the tumor is small.”

Reimer said in addition to her two surgeries, she has had three rounds of chemotherapy. Some of the symptoms that she has faced have included nausea, fatigue and chills.

According to Reimer, during difficult times, her students have been very understanding. When she told her classes last year that she was diagnosed with breast cancer, junior Maddie Guest decided to design and sell bracelets. The money raised from the bracelets was donated to the Cancer Wellness Center and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

“Maddie came up to me the day after I told their class, offering support and … bringing up the idea of selling bracelets to raise money for [cancer],” Reimer said.

Guest said the bracelets were sold for $1 and had the phrases ‘Fight Like a Girl’ and ‘Team Reimer’ written on them with the breast cancer ribbon embossed into the bracelets. The bracelet fundraiser raised about $900.

According to Reimer, her students have also helped in little ways such as using hand sanitizer in class. The hand sanitizer is used as a precaution because surfaces are covered with bacteria and viruses. If Reimer were to get sick, she could end up hospitalized in order to prevent a minor sickness from becoming more serious.  

“It was actually really sweet [because] the first wave of students that came in didn’t [use hand sanitizer], and then one did and then they’re all jumping up to go and use hand sanitizer like, ‘Oh, we’re sorry, we’re sorry,’” Reimer said.

While Reimer’s students have been supportive, Breast Cancer Awareness Month has brought fundraising to the halls of Glenbrook North.

According to Peggy Holecek, GBN Goes Pink coordinator, GBN also makes an effort every year around October to raise money for the Cancer Wellness Center and a clinical trial relating to cancer, which is different every year. She feels that GBN Goes Pink is a good way to give back to the community.

“I think [GBN Goes Pink is] important because it raises awareness about cancer in general,” said Holecek. “I think it empowers us to feel like we are able to do something about cancer, because cancer, sadly, has impacted everyone.”

Reimer said that she still plans to have one more surgery at the end of this year or early next year in order to finish up her reconstruction process.

“Be proactive,” said Reimer. “If you feel like something’s wrong with your body, go and get it checked out. … I [was just] sticking with my annual appointment and was fortunate enough to [catch the tumor].”

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Students, staff rally to support awareness for breast cancer